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The story behind the Pats Peak cookie

Monitor staff
Last modified: 2/22/2016 1:21:26 PM
Obviously, if an area ski mountain boasts a world-famous cookie, there’s only one thing to do: taste it.

It’s best to go straight to the source for the M&M cookie – to Pats Peak in Henniker. There, in the Tradewinds Cafe kitchen, is food and beverage director Guy Pelletier, who can tell you all about his best bakery item in detail.

It turns out that the Pats Peak M&M cookie started off without any M&M’s at all – just a plain chocolate chip cookie the ski mountain began selling shortly after opening in 1963.

“They started making the cookies bigger and bigger until they’re the size they are now,” which is about the size of a person’s face, Pelletier said. M&M’s were added in at some point along the way, and voila, every Concord-area kid’s favorite ski treat was born at $2.50 a piece.

“It’s a Pats Peak tradition,” Pelletier said.

Though he didn’t want to give away the exact recipe, Pelletier said the cookies are pretty typical. “It’s your traditional mix of flour and sugar and butter and eggs, vanilla and adding your candies to that,” he said. There are different variations: regular, double chocolate and gluten free.

One secret Pelletier did share was that Pats Peak only bakes six cookies per sheet pan to maximize size. Another is that the cookies are slightly undercooked to keep them soft and chewy – the way kids like them.

Perhaps the best strategy Pelletier uses is a choice of omission. There is no official calorie count for the famous M&M cookies.

“A lot,” is how Pelletier described it.

As for sales, Pelletier, who has been at Pats Peak for 16 years, said the cookies go fast when school ski programs are in session.

“My big day is Friday,” he said, when 1,600 students are at the mountain to learn to ski.

“Those kids really buy the cookies,” he said. “I can go through close to 800 cookies that day. And of course, the weekends are strong.”

So who makes all the cookies? Pats Peak has an exchange program set up with Ricardo Palma University in Lima, Peru, and students like Mercy Diaz, 21, and Patty Huamani, 18, spend the winter becoming cookie-baking masters.

Typically, Pelletier said, Peruvian students arrive in mid-December and leave in mid-March, and in the middle – during the core season – the kitchen can make up to 3,000 cookies per week. A batch of 42 cookies is pretty typical output for a half-hour, and as the season goes on, Pelletier said his exchange students get better and faster.

Diaz already has a head start this year – it’s her second in the exchange program. “I had a really great time here last year,” she said during a pause between cookie batches.

She described making cookies two days a week, helping out in the other areas of the cafe the rest of the week and, on days off, taking trips around New Hampshire.

“We have a lot of fun,” Diaz said. “Last week we went to Sky Zone and to Vertical Dreams.”

The women said they enjoyed their job, too – fast-paced as it is. On a late January morning, both stood at their station, scooping dough into balls, patting them flat on a baking sheet, sprinkling M&M’s on top, and putting the pans into the oven. In front of them was the official “World Famous” recipe, though both Diaz and Huamani kept their eyes on the task – Pelletier estimated they would make just over 400 cookies that day.

Later in the day, the whole kitchen staff would help individually wrap each cookie in plastic wrap.

While Diaz said she doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, Huamani is taking advantage of her surroundings this winter – she estimated she eats about five cookies per week.

“I love the cookies,” she said with a grin.

(Have questions or Ag & Eats news tips, events or recipes? Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)


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